Gympie councillor says you don’t need alcohol to live happily
MOST people are aware of Australia’s serious drinking problem, but it seems more are starting to do something about it and change their habits.
Gympie councillor Dan Stewart is one of many who are taking on the challenge of Dry January 2021.
Mr Stewart is hoping to make others realise “you don’t need alcohol to live happily” and to understand the detrimental effects it has.
“A lot of people don't release that alcohol is a dangerous drug in a way,” Mr Stewart said.
“I thought, well I can't educate people about the dangers of alcohol if I’m just drinking myself anyway.”
Having a background in child safety, Mr Stewart said he had witnessed the toll alcohol took on family relationships.
“I worked in child safety for 14 years,” he said.
“[I’ve] seen plenty of cases where alcohol is the factor in poor parenting.
“It confirmed concerns of how a lot of people are affected by alcohol, even when they don‘t think they are.”
Alcohol has been viewed as an integral part of the Australian culture for decades, but Mr Stewart believes this is starting to change.
“When I was growing up it was like, ‘when can we start drinking’ whereas with my kids they were just not particularly wanting to drink,” Mr Stewart said.
“They do drink a little bit now but certainly not as much as I did and I was never a heavy drinker.
“I think a lot of young people realise they just don't need alcohol to live a happy life.”
Mr Stewart’s observation is proven by a steady decline in alcohol consumption outlined in data collected by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
According to AIHW, the proportion of people aged 14 and over who consumed on average more than two standard drinks per day decreased from 21% in 2001 to 16.8% in 2019.
Interestingly, the availability of alcohol for consumption has also changed significantly over the past 50 years, with beer availability decreasing from 73.5% to 39%.
Mr Stewart said he had done Dry January for the last two years and it had changed his relationship with alcohol.
“I just cut it down to weekends only and even then it’s not a large amount of drink,” he said.
Pointing out the hypocrisy in society, Mr Stewart said, “Drinking is almost encouraged in quite a few quarters and other drugs are banned.”
“You see a lot of money being wasted on alcohol and a lot of misunderstanding about alcohol because people don't realise the effects it causes,” he said.
Mr Stewart said he had decided to make a habit of completing Dry January and hopes others might do the same.